§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. James Griffiths)
This will be the first time for many years that the Committee will hold its annual Debate on Colonial affairs without the help of my precedessor, Mr. Arthur Creech Jones. I am sure that I shall be speaking, not only for myself, but for hon. Members on all sides of the Committee when I pay tribute to the devoted service he has rendered to the Colonial Territories and their peoples. He has set a high standard for all who follow him; and it will be my endeavour, to the best of my ability, to continue the work he was doing. I am sure we all regret also, the absence through illness of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Stanley), who, over a long period, has also been a regular participant in this 1368 Debate. We all wish him a speedy recovery.
It is only four months since I was privileged to become Secretary of State for the Colonies; but, so interesting and absorbing is the work in this great office, that I feel I have spent almost as many years in the post. These crowded four months have brought to me a fuller realisation that it would be possible to bring to anyone outside of the immense responsibilities that are ours for the well-being of the Colonial Territories and their people.
The central aim and purpose of our Colonial policy has been made abundantly clear already; but, since this is the first occasion upon which I have to present this Annual Report, perhaps it is well to remind ourselves of it. That aim and purpose is to guide the Colonial Territories to responsible self-government within the Commonwealth, and, to that end, to assist them to the utmost of our capacity and resources to establish those economic and social conditions upon which alone self-government can be soundly based. That is our purpose, and it is also the test by which we must assess our work. The test is whether we are helping forward the Colonies and their peoples in the achievement of that purpose.
I now turn to review our work in the past year. The Committee will know that my Annual Report has been available for some time. In it the work of the year is dealt with in all its aspects and in very great detail. I very much regret that unfortunate delays in preparation and printing have prevented the publication before this Debate of a more detailed regional report on the East and Central African Territories, which I hope to present to the House before the end of this month. I also regret that the annual return of schemes made under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act is also not yet available to the House; but I will make it available as quickly as possible.
My object this afternoon will be to sketch the broad pattern which is implicit in these reports, and to comment on some of the main features that have marked this year's work. The field is so wide, the activities are so many—as those who have read the annual report will realise—that, even in providing a brief sketch for the 1369 Committee, a Secretary of State has to ask for indulgence. I hope I shall not overtax the patience of hon. Members who listen to me.
I turn first to consider economic developments in the Colonial Territories. On the economic side, our aim is to seek to build, in every one of the Territories, a stable economy by developing its agricultural, mineral or industrial resources, by improving methods of production, by safeguarding the natural wealth of the country and instilling "good husbandry" in all economic activities, and, most important, by diversifying those activities so that development is not lop-sided, and, consequently, dependent upon a few basic products.
The past year has shown how great a contribution the Colonial Territories can make to the economic life of the world, particularly in their dollar-earning and dollar-saving production. It is our aim to maintain the advantages which flow from this, in the interests alike of the Colonial Territories themselves, of the sterling area as a whole, and of the world. That means we must give every assistance to the Colonies to maintain and expand their production, which, in turn, means maintaining a high rate of exports to them. Fortunately, there has been a steady increase in the supply of both consumer and capital goods from sterling and soft-currency sources, and so the essentials of Colonial development are being increasingly provided.
But, whatever we do within the Colonial Territories, all will be in vain if stable markets are not assured for their products. It is vital to do all we can to protect the Colonies against those violent fluctuations in demand and price which, in the past, have had such disastrous effects upon their economic and social life. The agreement on sugar recently reached with the delegation from the British West Indies and British Guiana is an instance of our efforts to this end. My right hon. Friend, the Minister of Food, gave details of this to the House last Monday.
Up to the end of 1952, we are buying all the sugar that the Commonwealth and Colonial countries can sell to us. From 1953 to 1957, we have offered to buy from the West Indies a considerable part of their proposed exports, at prices 1370 which will ensure a reasonable remuneration to efficient producers. We have also promised to make a special examination of the position in 1953; and if consumption in this country then proves higher than has been estimated, we shall offer to increase, at least proportionately, the quantities to be purchased at the guaranteed price. I hope, and I am sure it is a hope in which all hon. Members will join, that these arrangements will open a new and happier chapter for all those Territories whose prosperity depends so largely upon the production of sugar.
The recovery during the year in the world demand for other staple commodities, such as rubber, tin and cocoa, has been very satisfactory, and has brought all-round benefit. I can say for these commodities too, that, in our activities in the international field, the importance to the Colonies of stable markets is always in the forefront of our thoughts.
Within the Territories themselves, there has been a great acceleration in bringing development plans into operation. This is emphasised by the increased rate of expenditure from Colonial Development and Welfare funds. A total of £12,900,000 was drawn from these funds by the Colonies in 1949–50, as compared with £6,450,000 in the previous year; and the estimated figure for 1950–51 is £19,500,000.
If the economic and social development of the Territories is to be maintained, we shall have to consider replenishing this source of help. I will not say more now on this subject, since, of course, the approval of Parliament will be sought for any proposals that may be made. I should like, however, to repeat the note of warning that is given in the Report that financial considerations are now becoming more of a limiting factor in colonial development than shortages of staff and equipment. Now that it is becoming possible to bring into play all the resources which the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, the London market and the internal efforts of the Colonial Governments make available, we shall have to watch very carefully in the future that development is properly balanced and that the pace is not forced to a point where unproductive development saddles the Colonial territories with future commitments which they will be unable to sustain.
1371 The Annual Report sets out the progress which has been made in every field of economic activity, and I leave it to speak for itself as an impressive record of achievement. I would, however, draw special attention to the emphasis placed on rural development, through measures for soil cultivation, drainage and irrigation, and the improvement of peasant husbandry; and I would particularly draw attention to the thought that is now being given to the possibilities of group development in peasant agriculture.
During my recent visit to Malaya I was greatly interested to discuss with the High Commissioner the project which was then contemplated and which has now been announced for the establishment in Malaya of a Rural Development Authority whose object will be to inject the capital and techniques needed for raising the production and improving the standard of life of the backward rural areas. The Chairman of the Authority will be Dato Onn, whose prominent part in the Malayan political field will be well known to many Members, and many Members will have had the opportunity and privilege of meeting him. The aim of this Rural Development Authority will be not only to assist the primary producer to develop his economy but also, and equally important, to give him a larger share in the development of industry based on his product.
I would also refer to the basic importance of improved communications in colonial development. It is sometimes forgotten that in this we have in some areas just started from scratch, but throughout Africa large projects are in hand or planned for the improvement and expansion of existing railways, for road development and the improvement of ports. A major problem in communications is that of providing for the ever-increasing transport requirements of the rich territories in the centre of Africa which are remote from the sea. This problem is being tackled on an international basis. Preliminary transport conferences at Lisbon and Paris have paved the way for a full-scale conference to be held at Johannesburg next October, from which it is hoped a permanent organisation will emerge for the co-ordination of transport development in Africa.
1372 Meantime, the problems arising from the pressure on the port of Beira have also been tackled. A satisfactory agreement has recently been made with the Portuguese Government to provide for the maintenance and development of that port. Other possible outlets are being explored, both on the East and the West Coasts; and, following on the preparatory survey of links between the Rhodesian and East African railways, a Colonial Development and Welfare grant has now been made for a detailed engineering survey of possible routes. This is now in hand, and it is hoped that the complementary economic survey will soon begin.
In this work of strengthening and diversifying the Colonial economies, the Colonial Development Corporation is proving itself an effective instrument. The Board has now approved 45 undertakings involving a capital commitment of nearly £25 million. These projects cover a wide range of activity; and, in accordance with the terms of the Act, the Corporation, in addition to undertaking a number of pioneer development schemes on its own responsibility, has lent money on debenture to established concerns, both private and public, for development projects, and has associated itself in such projects with both government and private enterprise.
As the Act envisaged, many of the schemes undertaken by the Corporation will involve a long period of basic development before substantial production is achieved. Indeed, well over a third of the Corporations investment is in long-term agricultural and forestry schemes of this kind, involving the bringing of new land into cultivation in remote areas. I believe that the Corporation is getting down to the job with the right balance between speed and caution. I hope that the Board's annual report will be available shortly, and I am sure that it will make interesting reading for Members of the Committee and the country generally.
Before leaving the subject of the economic field, I should like to pay tribute to the United States for the help which has been given to the Colonial Territories from the programmes operated by the Economic Co-operation Administration. The visits to Africa by prominent American experts in the field 1373 of agriculture, medicine and pest control have resulted in valuable appraisals of specific problems. We have also benefited to the extent of a million and a quarter dollars from the special fund established to meet the dollar equipment requirements of development projects in the overseas territories of the O.E.E.C. countries. Most of this is for heavy road building equipment.
I must say that we had hoped to obtain for the Colonial territories a much more substantial contribution than this relatively small part of the total fund, but its use is limited by the E.C.A. to plant and equipment which cannot be obtained elsewhere than in the United States. We and the other European countries concerned have found that with the increased production of our own capital equipment, there is now only a small and, indeed, a decreasing element in Colonial requirements which has got to be met from the United States. Talks have been started with the E.C.A. to see if means can be devised for freeing these funds for further stimulation of colonial development.
As hon. Members will be aware, the British Commonwealth Consultative Committee at Sydney last May recommended the inauguration of a Commonwealth technical assistance scheme for South-East Asia, in supplementation of what was already being done by the United Nations. In accordance with the Committee's recommendations, the British territories in the area—Malaya, Borneo and Sarawak—are participating in this work and are now preparing six-year development plans for consideration as part of the whole scheme by the Committee in the autumn.
I have just read P.E.P.'s valuable broadsheet on the economic needs of South Asia, and I commend it to hon. Members. How right they are when they say:There can be no real stability in the world as a whole without stability in every one of its main areas. Without prosperity in South Asia world prosperity will be precarious at the best. On the other hand, if there could be an increase of prosperity sufficient to allow every South Asian to buy from abroad a dollar's worth of goods a year it would create an annual demand for 500 million dollars' worth of goods from other parts of the world.I think they are right. Prosperity, like peace, is indivisible, and I think our 1374 Annual Report shows that we are slowly but steadily building greater prosperity in the Colonial territories.
§ Mr. Ian L. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
On the question of international talks on rail transport, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned two capitals, namely Lisbon and Paris. May I ask whether he omitted Brussels because the Belgians have not been consulted in this matter?
§ Mr. Griffiths
No. The capitals named are the capitals where the preliminary conferences took place.
§ Mr. Griffiths
Yes. So much for our economic aims and achievements. I think we all realise that a sound economy is an essential foundation for the social services and standards which the colonial people need and which it is our privilege, with them, to build up. I turn to what has been done and is being done to improve those standards.
In this field, the establishment of good industrial relations in the Colonial territories is a matter of supreme importance. I am concerned, as I know are all Members of the Committee, about some aspects of the present situation in this field of labour relations. What happened at Enugu, as revealed in the Fitzgerald Report, is a challenge to us all—to workers, to employers and Governments alike. I have set out my considered views on the Fitzgerald Report in my published Despatch to the Governor of the 22nd May. The Report and the Despatches will be laid before the Legislative Council in Nigeria in September. The Governor and I are anxious that the valuable constructive recommendations in the Report shall be considered and implemented as soon as it is possible and practicable. I should like to pay my tribute to the authors of the Report.
It is indeed of interest to note that one of the recommendations made by the 1375 Fitzgerald Report has been anticipated in that in the new constitution for Nigeria, which is now under consideration, there is a proposal to set up a Ministry of Labour with a responsible Minister at the head of the Department. As the Committee knows, I have asked four men of wide industrial experience to visit Nigeria and I am grateful to them for undertaking this task. I would appeal most earnestly to all concerned to give them their full cooperation in the very difficult task they have undertaken at our invitation.
We must all realise that strong and responsible trade unions are essential to good government and that in the Colonial Territories the trade unions can, and I believe will, play an important part in the evolution of their countries towards self-government. We must also remember—and I say this to all concerned in all the territories—that we can only build responsible trade unions when they are granted full recognition both by employers and by Governments alike.
We are encouraging and assisting the growth of trade unions throughout the Colonies. Today there are 1,000 trade unions with a total membership of over 600,000. Except for about 30 in the West Indies, all of these have come into existence since 1940 and those in the Far East are mostly only two or three years old. They are young and have many difficult problems to face, and they have to face them without the background of experience or the advantage of tradition. Their leaders, as I found when I met them and discussed their problems with them in Malaya and Singapore, are anxious for the guidance and training we can give them and here, as in so many other ways, the work of the Colonial Labour Departments is invaluable.
Labour officers, many of them with trade union experience in this country, are rendering a real service to the local unions in advising and training their members in trade union principles and practice. Selected leaders from the Colonies have come to this country on training courses organised by the T.U.C., who also have sponsored correspondence courses in conjunction with Ruskin College. I am very grateful to the T.U.C. for all the help they are giving us in this very important aspect of our work. There have also been excellent 1376 results from group training at a regional school for trade unionists in the West Indies.
It is encouraging to note that colonial trade unions are also taking their place in the international field. Representatives from 13 Colonial Territories attended a conference in London at the end of last year when the new International Confederation of Free Trade Unions was established, and two of the 13 representatives were elected to the executive of the Confederation. There was also a colonial representative on our delegation to the recent I.L.O. conference at Geneva.
We are anxious to see progressive labour legislation introduced into the Colonial Territories and recently considerable advances have been made, particularly in workmen's compensation, measures for industrial safety and in the provision of statutory wage-fixing machinery. The three month training courses, given in this country with the cooperation of the Ministry of Labour, provide practical experience for our colonial labour officers, who then have returned to their Colonies to administer such new schemes. These officers also derive advantage from the regional conferences at which they pool their experience and their knowledge.
In discussing this aspect of our work I repeat that good industrial relations are of supreme importance in every one of our Colonial Territories and, as an old trade unionist, I am anxious to assist in every way I can in the development of sound trade unions and the establishment of good industrial relations. I ask Members of the Committee to realise that if we can establish good, sound trade unions and good industrial relations that will be of immense importance in this transitional stage in our colonial affairs.
But decent and secure conditions in which to labour are only part of what a man needs for a good life. In addition, he needs to be strong and healthy and to have knowledge—two of the things which I have described in my Report to the House as basic requirements for effective self-government. I could spend many hours describing the advances which have been made towards these two goals, but I must not take up time which many hon. Members wish to use and I must curtail my references in this part, much as I regret it. I must content myself 1377 with a reference to the fifth chapter of my Report, dealing with social services, for I believe in that chapter there is on record at least a satisfactory and substantial response to the tremendous problems that face us in that field.
Over the past decade there have been striking improvements in the health of the Colonies. This is in great measure due to the effective control of malaria, and I could not omit mention of what I regard as a really wonderful achievement in which we can take great pride—the complete eradication of this disease from Cyprus and the protection now enjoyed from it by 95 per cent. of the people of British Guiana. That was only done in the last few years and it is a record of which one should be proud. Later this year an international conference on malaria will be held in East Africa which, we hope, will form plans for an attack on this disease on a continent-wide basis.
We are also determined that every modern method shall be brought to bear on the problem of tuberculosis, the incidence of which in the Colonies gives rise to very much concern. I now have a special consultant on tuberculosis and, with his assistance, plans have been made for a co-ordinated attack on the disease throughout the Colonial Territories. Of course, it poses social as well as medical problems, and social measures, such as the splendid work of the Singapore Improvement Trust, to improve housing conditions, which I saw for myself, are a vital part of this fight against T.B. I would also draw the attention of the Committee to the very good work going on in the field of medical research of which details are given in the sixth chapter of the Report.
In education, too, we have no mean record. It is a measure of our achievement to instance that Malaya now has 640,000 children at school compared with 240,000 10 years ago. There are now three full universities and four university colleges in the Colonies, all of which, except those in Malta and Hong Kong, have been brought into existence in the last three years. Already these university institutions are catering for more colonial students than there are attending university institutions in this country. They have also become centres of research as well as of teaching. They are taking a vigorous part in extra-mural 1378 activities and are giving a lead to adult education in their regions.
Technical education, which is also of very great importance, is going ahead. The main development in this field has been the creation of the three new regional colleges of art, science and technology in West Africa. Technical institutes have also been developed and also apprenticeship training courses. There are, too, a great number of extremely interesting experiments in what is described as mass education or community development.
The other day hon. Members were able to see a film, "Daybreak in Udi," which described this new development; and I hope hon. Members will possess themselves of a copy of a report of an extraordinarily interesting experiment in Northern Rhodesia following the production for that country of what is called a "saucepan radio," which is now being tested in other territories and holds out the prospect of a big development in broadcasting in those territories.
Now I should like to refer to Colonial students in this country. The British Council, with assistance from the Colonial Development and Welfare Board, now has responsibilities for their accommodation, for their hospitality and for their welfare. Our students from the Colonies are in good hands, I believe; but I should like to remind the men and women of Great Britain that they are not here only to acquire the knowledge and skills that we can give them, but also—and, perhaps, this is even more important—to learn our way of life and to become our friends. It is up to all of us—I should like to make this appeal—to help them, as we can, by asking them into our homes and to take part in our activities and recreations. Then they will become really our friends, and understand our way of life and all that it stands for in the world today. I would make this very earnest appeal. Within the short four months I have been at the Colonial Office I have come to know how important it is that they should be able to go back to their homes with real friends in this country.
It is against the background of economic and social progress which I have described today that the steady advances made in the political and constitutional field take on their proper significance.
1379 In West Africa, the Report of the Coussey Committee has already become a part of history, and I would only remind hon. Members of the main features of its proposals, which have now been generally accepted. The new Executive Council in the Gold Coast will consist in the majority of African Ministers holding departmental responsibilities, and it will be the main instrument of policy. There will be a greatly enlarged Legislature composed almost entirely of members directly or indirectly elected by the people. Various select committees of the Legislative Council are now studying the detailed application of the agreed proposals, and it is hoped that all will be ready for the new Constitution to come into operation during next year.
In Nigeria, constitutional proposals put forward by the General Conference after a long series of consultations with representatives of the people at all levels in all the regions were considered by the Legislative Council last March. There is general agreement that there should be increased regional autonomy within a united Nigeria; that the regional legislatures should be made more representative; and that Nigerians should participate fully in shaping policy and directing executive action. To this end it is proposed that the Central Executive Council should be replaced by a Council of Ministers, consisting mainly of Nigerians, who will have departmental responsibilities, and that there should be executive councils similarly constituted in the regions, with members also responsible for departments of the regional governments.
Certain divergencies of view still remain to be reconciled. There has been much debate between the north, on the one hand, and the east and west, on the other, regarding the composition of the Central Legislature. The north claims membership equal to the east and west combined. A compromise suggestion for a bicameral legislature, with one House based on population and the other on equality of representation between the three regions, is now under discussion locally and will reach the Legislative Council later in the year. Then the difficult problem of allocating revenues between the federal and regional services is being tackled with the aid of an expert economist from this 1380 country, assisted by a Canadian with considerable experience of such problems, whose services have generously been made available to us by the Canadian Government.
In the West Indies a major event was the publication last March of the Report of the Standing Closer Association Committee, with its thoughtful proposals for a federation of the British West Indian territories. His Majesty's Government have commended this admirable report to the serious study of the West Indian peoples, and I await with great interest the outcome of the discussion which, I understand, will shortly take place on the report in all the West Indian Legislatures. One, that in Grenada, has already voted in favour of federation. It is for the West Indian peoples to decide whether and when they wish to proceed along the road recommended by the committee. The committee supported federation as the best means of achieving self-government within the Commonwealth for the West Indies, and it is our desire to help the peoples of the West Indies in every possible way towards that goal.
In our Colonial Territories the movement for political and constitutional advance never checks, never pauses. For example, in Trinidad the first general election under the new Constitution will be held in September. Then the Legislative Council will have a clear elected majority, and the Executive Council will also consist of a majority of members elected to it by the Legislature. In addition, the Governor will be empowered to appoint elected members of the Executive to take charge of Government departments as Ministers.
Then in Gibraltar there has been established for the first time a Legislative Council, with an unofficial majority, and it is expected to meet in the autumn. In Uganda an increase in African representation on the Legislature has been announced from four to eight, and in the representation of Asians and Europeans from three to four. In North Borneo plans for the establishment of Legislative and Executive Councils this year are in an advanced stage. Proposals made last year by the Governor of Hong Kong for amending the constitution of that Colony were under consideration by my predecessor at the time of the General Election. I have recently had an oppor- 1381 tunity to discuss those recommendations with the Governor personally, and I am now giving the matter further thought.
I would now say a few words about the Colonial Territories in East and Central Africa. The problem here is one which it is easy to state but most difficult to solve. The settlement of immigrant communities has done much for the economic development of those territories, but it also sets for all of us, both in Africa and here, a most difficult task of statesmanship in designing, and seeking to achieve, the right political evolution of this area. It has been said many times, but cannot be repeated too often, that our policy is to help the Africans to develop politically, socially and economically so that they can play their full part in the central government and in the local administration of their territories. It is also clear that the immigrant communities, some of whose families have lived there for generations, must now be regarded as belonging to those territories.
That is the background against which we have to consider this most difficult of the constitutional problems that confront us in our Colonial Territories. It is a problem to which I am giving most anxious thought. It is one which I am discussing with my advisers and with the Governors concerned. I hope also to arrange for my colleague, the Minister of State, to pay a visit to East Africa this summer. Meantime I would make an appeal, in which I hope all hon. Members will join, on this very difficult problem. I would beg everyone to realise that it is a problem that can be made infinitely more difficult of solution by ill-considered speech and action.
No survey of political development in the Colonies would be complete without at least a brief mention of the unspectacular but widespread and important progress throughout the Colonial Territories in the development of local government institutions. It is by adapting, expanding and modernising these agencies that we seek to foster that sense of social service, and to provide that training and experience in the handling of public affairs on which the effective operation of political institutions at the centre depends. If I could say a word to all those who are working with us in the development towards self-government in the Colonies— 1382 and I think every hon. Member would agree with me, speaking as I do as one with experience of local government and of trade unions—all those who before coming to this House have had experience of local government work know the great value of that experience in their work here. Similarly, experience of local government work will play an important part in the development of self-government in these Colonial territories.
So far I have been speaking about the work that is being done and I should now like to say a word or two, if I may, about the men who are doing it. It is useless to create self-governing institutions if, at the same time, local men and women are not being trained to carry on the administration of their countries, and it is our declared policy to bring local officers into the higher grades of the public service in our territories. We have already made considerable progress in some areas in this respect. In the West Indies, for example, many West Indians now hold senior posts; in Nigeria there are now 364 locally born officers in the senior service compared with 172 in 1948 and 26 in 1938; in Malaya and Singapore, too the numbers are increasing.
It is a principal aim of our policy to provide the educational facilities within the territories themselves, and also by scholarships and special training courses in this country, to enable Colonial men and women to qualify for posts of higher responsibility in the Government service. Now all Colonial Governments have scholarship schemes for this purpose, and £1 million has been allocated from Colonial Development and Welfare funds for the same object. Two-fifths of the colonial students at present in this country are assisted in this way, either by their local government or by Colonial Development and Welfare grants. People from the Colonies are also participating in the special training courses for cadets and serving officers in the Colonial Service; 79 locally domiciled officers are attending or have attended such courses this year, and represent about one-third of the total attendance.
But all these measures will not produce more than a proportion of the men and women needed for the higher posts in the Colonies, and there is no foreseeable decrease in the need for members of the 1383 Colonial Service recruited in this country and from other Commonwealth countries. Indeed, the demand for qualified men from outside the Colonial Territories continues to be greater than ever before. Although over 1,400 appointments were made in 1949, there were still over 1,100 unfilled vacancies at the end of the year. This year over 800 appointments have already been made, but the vacancies still stand at about 1,150. We are, however, in the middle of the year, and although I should not like to predict what success we shall have achieved at the end of it, I hope that we shall by then have substantially reduced the number of vacancies still to be filled. Indeed, it is pleasing to note that the rate of recruitment for many branches of the Service has been encouragingly higher so far this year than it was last year.
I should like to pay tribute to the work of the Colonial Service. Their tasks are changing as conditions change, but their responsibility becomes greater now than ever before, for in this transition stage their task calls for qualities of intelligence, tact and sympathy of a high order, and I can think of no more worth while job that a man can undertake today, and no field in which there is more to be done.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
On this most important question, could the right hon. Gentleman say why he thinks there are still so many unfilled vacancies? It is so different from what it was after the First World War. Is it a question of salaries, or uncertainty, or what is it?
§ Mr. Griffiths
There are many things. First of all, there is full employment. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Well, that is important. I do not want to detain the Committee on this point, but most important of all is the fact that it is taking us time to catch up with what was, after all, six years of arrears during the war.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I think it will be agreed that during this last war there was a greater proportion of our total population involved in all the efforts of the war than during the First World War.
§ Mr. Griffiths
I know; I agree. But this has been the experience not only of the Colonial Office; it has been the experience of all those who have to recruit people of high professional and technical qualifications. However, as I say, the situation is becoming better, and it looks very much better this year than it was last year.
If in my review this afternoon I have dwelt mainly on what we have achieved, I hope the Committee will not think it is because I am unmindful of our mistakes, our failings and our shortcomings. In this work I have observed, and now I know, that it is perhaps inevitable that our failures should be highlighted and that our constructive work becomes almost a "silent service." I hope therefore, that we may be allowed once a year, in these annual Debates, to speak up for ourselves and for the work we do, and to take pride in it.
In these days our minds are inevitably pre-occupied with Malaya and Hong Kong, both in the troubled areas of the world. On Malaya I have little to add to the statement I made in the House on 21st June, but I should like to say that the recruitment of the personnel needed, to which I referred in that statement, is proceeding satisfactorily; and that I am now discussing with the Malayan authorities how we shall give effect to the undertaking in regard to further financial assistance, which I also indicated in my statement.
I can confirm that I intend to introduce a Supplementary Estimate for whatever sum is finally decided. That will give the House an opportunity of discussing the situation. I can assure the Committee that progress against the Communists in Malaya has not been hampered by lack of funds, and that it is our intention in providing further assistance to pay full regard to the needs both of the emergency and of the social and economic development of Malaya.
I hope the Committee will agree that whilst, on balance, there is no room whatsoever for complacency anywhere about our territories and their problems, and whilst there are still very many difficult and, indeed, urgent problems to solve in all these territories, we are steadily and surely working towards the fulfilment of that central purpose of our policy—the guiding and the assisting of the peoples 1385 of the Colonies towards responsible self-government within the Commonwealth. I believe our Report of the last year's work shows that we are being faithful to that trust.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Eden (Warwick and Leamington)
I must first congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the comprehensive survey he has given us of much of the achievement that has been realised in colonial affairs. He covered a great deal of ground, most of it at a steady canter, occasionally at rather a breathless gallop, but all of it in the best traditions of one of the hill-ponies of his native land. It was agreeable to listen to him, and it is obvious to the Committee that already he is making immense efforts to get a grasp of an office which is as important and, indeed, as exacting as any in the whole hierarchy of Government.
I am grateful to him for the tribute which he paid to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Stanley), who should have been speaking in my place this afternoon; I am only deputising for him for the moment. For seven years my right hon. Friend has spoken in these Debates, either from the Government side or from this side of the House, showing thereby a very agreeable continuity in colonial affairs. I am afraid that I cannot wish the right hon Gentleman as long a tenure of office as that, but I can say that I hope that so long as the life of the Government should happen to survive, he will, if he so desires it, continue to occupy this office and take the same interest, as he is clearly doing now, in its exacting tasks.
I think that I ought also to say a word about his predecessor. It is quite obvious that we cannot agree on all points on both sides of the Committee, but I think that we all understand the sincerity and integrity of purpose with which he pursued his objective, and I think that we also understand that he tried, so far as he could, as did my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West to lift these colonial Debates out of, the ordinary arena of political warfare. For both these reasons, we should like to pay him a tribute.
I turn to our actual discussion. I begin by saying that I agree very much with the definition which heads this remarkable 1386 and very interesting Blue Book. I myself do not like Blue Books; I find them extremely difficult to read, as a general rule; but I did not find this one difficult to read because the range is so wide and many of the topics are so entertaining that, although I got a little tired after a time with the movements of His Majesty's junior Ministers who figure in it, I found that the tale was by no means difficult to follow.
I should mention here that my right hon. Friend and I had intended to give a further Supply Day for the report, which should be due this month, of the Colonial Development Fund, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. If it is ready before the House rises for the summer Recess, we will gladly give a day to discussing it. If that is physically impossible, we should like to discuss it early in the autumn when we come back.
I begin by saying that I am in entire agreement with the opening quotation with which the right hon. Gentleman heads his general survey of the central purpose of our colonial policy. I do not propose to read it, because I am sure that everyone taking part in this Debate has read it already. I want only to say that I endorse it, and I also endorse all the five basic requirements which the right hon. Gentleman states there as being necessary for effective self-government. I think that I should like to add a sixth. The sixth would be, I suggest, that self-government is dependent on the transfer of power to the people and not only to a minority of the people concerned. That is a point which I should like to ask the Committee to examine.
I think that part of the purpose of this Debate must be to see how far we are making progress towards the idea that the right hon. Gentleman sets out, and whether we are on the right lines or not. I think the Committee would agree that the clamant minority in a Colony—that is, the clamant minority which is pressing for larger political powers at an early date—is not always representative of the larger and less vocal element that also lives there. Indeed, this minority sometimes claims to speak for millions from whom it differs in race or custom or religion. I am thinking, in particular, of the West African Colonies, where the views of the people on the coastal belt, for instance, do not necessarily represent 1387 those of larger populations in the interior, as the right hon. Gentleman showed just now by his reference to Nigeria and the difficulty he was having in adjusting rival demands there.
The truth is, I suppose, that through their earlier contacts with European nations the people on the coast have made greater progress in certain respects—whether we call it "progress" or whatever other word we may use—than have many others in the hinterland in developing a political conscience. Many of them have achieved a high degree of culture and intelligence, and when one meets them one can well understand their ambition to manage their own affairs; but there is a vast difference, I suggest, between managing their own affairs and managing the affairs of others from whom they are separated by a wide gulf, socially, racially and intellectually. Lord Hailey had some wise words to say about this. He said:The chief characteristic of the rule of dependencies in its classical form is that it involves the control by very few over very many. It is common ground that the objective in view is that the very many should eventually rule themselves. But it would be a misfortune if, in pursuance of this objective, the present few abdicated in favour of another group of very few less likely than themselves to defend the interests of the many and to devolve full authority upon them.I mention that because I think that here is a problem that we have to consider. This is the kind of occasion on which we ought to consider it. I was, in that connection, a good deal perturbed by an article which I saw yesterday and which, I dare say, many other hon. Members saw, in the "Manchester Guardian" about conditions on the Gold Coast. I have a very great respect for the "Manchester Guardian" foreign correspondents or colonial correspondents, and I do not know any who are better. It is one of the deplorable results of the newsprint shortage that we do not get anything like the full reports that most of us would like to have of what is going on in our Colonial Territories and in other places abroad. I frequently read in the American newspapers of 20 or 30 pages things that we cannot find in the best informed of our own. The article in the "Manchester Guardian" gives an account of the general activities of the Convention Peoples' Party. It says: 1388The C.P.P. mean to sweep the polls in the next elections, not because they desire the new Constitution to be tried out with a view to success, but because they plan to make it a complete failure by putting every possible obstruction in the machinery of government. They seem, however, to overlook the serious consequences which may thus arise if the Governor should find himself with a Cabinet of ex-convicts who refuse to co-operate with white officials and whose big block of representatives in the House of Assembly would out-vote every measure. Perhaps the crux of the matter has been best put by Dr. Danquah: 'We shall soon have to choose between white imperialism or a black dictatorship.'I do not know how accurate that appreciation is, but it is pretty serious when it is in a paper like the "Manchester Guardian," and if it is anywhere near the truth it is very disturbing. I can say, from what little I know of Dr. Danquah, that I find it surprising that he should be using terms of that kind. I should like to know what the Government feel about this situation, and whether they think that the quotation I have given represents the facts at all, and, if it does, whether there is any action they contemplate or consider should be taken. As we proceed, step by step, in framing the way that we all want to travel, I think that we must see what is progressing and what we really want to happen. If this is not an accurate account, or the Government have any comments to make upon it, it would be interesting to the Committee to hear them.
I am not comforted in the matter by some accounts that I have read of the elections which have taken place in parts of West Africa and the way in which they were conducted. For instance, there were the municipal elections at Accra. No doubt I ought to have known, but I did not know, that these are not conducted by ballot as they have been in the Sudan for some considerable time. The accounts that I have seen read very much like the 18th century hustings here, not excluding the fact that everyone seems to have enjoyed himself very much indeed. Whether that is exactly the purpose of the elections or not, I would not be so certain. These are things which I think we ought to examine.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the C.P.P. which he has mentioned, wrote a long memorandum against just that form of electing a government, and presented it to the committee now working under the 1389 Coussey Constitution? As far as I know, nothing was done, but the party took the strongest possible steps it could against this form of election.
§ Mr. Eden
I am not attacking any party. I am merely saying that I do not think this method of an 18th century election is an awfully good one, whichever party benefits. I do not know whether the C.P.P. expressed any views on the form of election, but I understand, at any rate, that they did very well out of it.
Since the hon. and learned Member has raised the matter, perhaps I might read this account from "West Africa" of what went on. When the voter came along, he was asked:What is your name? What is your house number? Is it down here? Ah, yes. Who are you voting for? Mr. Alema? Right. Next please.That may be a good way of recording votes, but no one will suggest that it has anything to do with a secret ballot. I do not know to which party Mr. Alema belonged, but the point I am making is that this is not a good way to conduct an election to an authority to which we are to pass much more power than it has hitherto had.
That brings me to another point to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. These Colonies are going to be asked to increase the number of administrators from amongst themselves, which is a very good thing. I am wondering whether it will be possible for the Gold Coast, for example, to fill something like 1,000 vacancies in the senior services in the next 10 years. If not, then it is more than ever important that the British element in the services there should be accepted and should be working in a friendly way with those who are going to take their places.
This brings me to another point I want to raise, and which I hope will not be considered to be too controversial. It is in connection with the Press there. I read in both the reports, in the Report issued after the Enugu riots and also in the Gold Coast Report, comments about the attitude of the Press. Very strong words were used in the case of the Enugu riots. It was stated:We are forced to the conclusion that the major part of the Press of Nigeria disclosed a degree of irresponsibility which bodes no good for the people of the country, or for the furtherance of their political aims.1390 I have read many of these papers, which by our standards are not papers at all but more like broad-sheets. Frankly, they are filled with poisonous misrepresentation about His Majesty's Government, and the accounts of the Korea development are quite unbelievable—the "Daily Worker" is quite a long way behind. Here, again, there is a problem. I cannot suggest a solution to the right hon. Gentleman, but we should be conscious that the problem is there and is probably having pretty serious effects among the people who are not so used as we are to assess what is said about us in the Press. I presume that these accounts are carried round, as they used to be carried round by hawkers in this country 100 years ago, to small towns where they are read out, when possibly some of the language used is embellished.
There seems to be so little responsible information to put in balance against it. If there were some such information, the problem would not matter so much. Can nothing be done in the matter? [An HON. MEMBER: "There is the wireless."] Yes, but what is happening at present, as far as I can make out, is that bulletins are put out from the Government and there is also a certain amount of information given in an official gazette. No one really reads an official gazette, which is not normally the kind of document people want to read, although I believe that it was read in our case when my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) edited one. I am not suggesting any form of censorship, because I do not think that is a good thing, as we have to preserve the liberties of the Press.
We have to accept the fact that this is having pretty serious consequences. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would consider consulting the Empire Press Union, which, I understand, has been discussing this very matter at Ottawa, and perhaps sending one of his officers to assist in those discussions. It may be that he would like to fortify himself with the advice of a responsible commission. If no attention is paid to this matter, we may find in a year or two that the consequences are very great and not unrelated to things happening in other parts of the world.
I should like to make one or two observations about the record of the 1391 Colonial Service generally, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I do not think we need to be unduly apologetic about the achievements of our Colonial Service. I am not particularly influenced by the strident criticisms which are occasionally made at U.N.O., particularly as I notice that those who are most loud in their criticisms have an internal record by no means free from blemish. For the sake of those in the Service, we should make it plain from this Committee that they are doing their job extremely well, and in a fashion in which we have confidence, in the pursuit of the objective about which we are all agreed. This apologetic business can be carried too far.
There was a case which does not concern the administration of the present Government, a case long ago of a battalion of a famous African regiment who were asked to produce a regimental emblem. They produced the lion rampant, and the comment made from headquarters was that, in view of the tendencies of the times it would be perhaps better, on the whole, to have a lion couchant. Perhaps a lion couchant is more able to spring, although I do not think the need will arise. I do not think it is good advice. We should not get into that tone or temper in these matters. We have set ourselves an objective, and we should see it carried out. If people do not agree, then we must treat their criticisms on the basis of their value, after fairly assessing them.
I understand that the evidence about the Enugu riots is to be published, and I think it right that the Government should do that. Meanwhile, our sympathy goes out to the relatives of those who lost their lives. I agree that we have to look to the future, and the chief problem is the future of trade unionism in Nigeria and other Colonies where a similar state of affairs exists. For this reason, I welcome the decision to send out this small body of experts to study the question and advise what should be done. I think they have been well chosen, but there is one other matter, and that is the matter of the Press, to which the Commission referred.
I should like to say something about East and Central Africa, to which the right hon. Gentleman also referred. The position there is very different from that 1392 in West Africa. I like very much the words the right hon. Gentleman used about the situation there and the problems of statesmenship. We have to face the fact that for any period of time we can foresee European leadership and guidance will be essential. Whatever may be the final pattern of the constitution, there can be no question of eliminating those who have made their homes there, whatever their colour may be. That, I understand, was the right hon. Gentleman's position.
It is true that without Europeans that part of the world would never have made the vast strides it has. There are men alive today who can remember that part of Africa in the early '90's, when there were no roads, no railways, no currency, no commerce except in slaves; not even the wheel or plough. So it is fair to say that this achievement has been led by the whites. Indeed, the, former Secretary of State for the Colonies wrote exactly the same thing when he made this claim about them last year in these words:The presence and energy of Europeans has been and is an absolutely indispensable factor.I need hardly say that I and my hon. Friends endorse those words.
I want for a moment to turn to the West Indies. I should like, in passing, to welcome the undertaking which His Majesty's Government have given recently to review the terms of the sugar contract with the West Indies. All of us are pleased that the delegation did not go home empty-handed, although they did not get everything that they asked for. The only pity about it is that the people of the West Indies will be left with the impression that this concession has been given only grudgingly and at the eleventh hour, and I am wondering whether it would not have been a bit better for the Government to have made up their minds a bit earlier to go some way to meet the delegation. However that may be, if the people of the West Indies can show the same determination in dealing with their political and economic affairs as the sugar delegation showed in their recent negotiations, it augurs pretty well for their future.
The document which was published early this year on the subject of federation seemed to us to be a statesmanlike 1393 one, and I believe there will be general agreement that federation is the most attractive course open to the West Indies. The day of small units is passing everywhere. They cannot hope to achieve, either in the political or economic field, as small and separate Colonies the same success as they should be able to achieve as a single entity. For example, one voice speaking for the West Indies on the sugar issue showed what can be done. Federation is bound to demand some sacrifices. I am glad to notice that the larger Colonies seem to be prepared to accept that for the sake of the weaker units.
At this moment the report is to be discussed by each of the local legislatures, and there we must leave it. While expressing the hope that a measure of agreement will be reached, we must be careful at the same time not to give the impression that federation is being imposed from Whitehall. We must let them move themselves towards it. It will not solve some of their problems, and it will not meet the fundamental economic problems, but it will make it much easier for them to be handled. If we press it on them too hard, some of the Colonies who think more easily in terms of London than the neighbouring islands will be turned away, and it will take some time to reach final agreement on the matter.
I do not propose to make more than a passing reference to our Eastern Colonies, partly for reasons of time and partly by force of circumstances. Malaya, Singapore and Hong Kong figure today more appropriately in terms of our defence policy and foreign affairs. They all stand in the front line in the war against Communism in the East and it is unfortunately mainly in that context that we have to consider them. Their internal affairs are overshadowed, and staff and money which should be available for internal development has got to be diverted to other purposes.
I was glad to note in the Report and in the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made today that these internal services are none the less making some progress, because to raise the standards of life in those countries is essential if we are to build a sure defence against Communism. As I indicated when the Secretary of State made his statement last June, we believe there is a case for some 1394 financial help to Malaya, and we will, examine it very sympathetically when a Supplementary Estimate is presented. The Malayans have to bear a great deal, and nothing is more remarkable than the way in which under these conditions they have maintained and increased their output in 1949 compared with 1948. It is a remarkable fact.
I like the figures in the Blue Book which may not have been noticed by everybody, showing how completely loyal is the Malayan population, and the great mass of the Chinese, too. There were 430,000 Malayan volunteers, which is a pretty generous offer of service whichever way it is looked at. It is nearly as good as the Home Guard in the first days of the war. It is a wonderful response, and it is interesting to notice, too, that of the 1,592 bandits killed or captured, 93 per cent. were Chinese. It is only fair to add that most of the civilians killed were Chinese. Once the immediate emergency is over, our task in Malaya must be to maintain, to expand and to diversify her economy, paying particular attention to rice production.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the economy of too many of our Colonies is too narrowly dependent on one or two crops. A wider diversification would make for much greater strength. One question I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman about that part of the world. I notice an expansion in the export of oil from Brunei and of timber from North Borneo. It will be interesting to know what steps are being taken to develop further the resources of these territories, particularly in respect of ports and communications, because there seems to be great possibilities of increased production, which will be of service to us all.
The right hon. Gentleman paid a well deserved tribute to the contribution which these Colonial Territories have made and are making to our balance of payments problem and to the rebuilding of our gold reserves. He is absolutely right to do that, but I am disappointed that neither in the Blue Book nor anywhere else have we been told the full amount, the make up and the extent of that contribution. We all know that it is very large, but none of us knows how much it is. I should have thought it was very desirable from the point of view of those territories themselves that they should know how much 1395 our improved balance of payments, how much our sterling and how much our increased gold reserves is due to what they have done.
The right hon. Gentleman set up a statistical department last year and that is a good thing. Would not this be a good subject for it to deal with? Let not the right hon. Gentleman be deterred by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is no reason why the world should not know the details. There is no reason why the world should not know how much Malaya has done towards this problem, or Borneo or the West Coast African territories. It would greatly encourage the people to make their contribution and to create emulation and satisfaction, and also we would not get a false sense of complacency, which might otherwise bear upon us. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider that, and see whether he cannot give us those figures. It will not be a slur upon our own country's efforts to say that the chief factor in the improved gold reserves undoubtedly has been the rise in the volume and prices of exports of raw materials by the free territories with which we are dealing this afternoon. Undoubtedly American prosperity has helped that, and, no doubt, the unhappy tension of Korean affairs will also result in an increased demand for raw materials, but still we should like to see the picture in detail in order to see what has been done.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to staff. I do not want to carry that matter further except to make this suggestion to him. I think it possible in respect of the administrative staff particularly that some of his difficulties of recruitment may be due to uncertainty about the future. That does not apply to anyone on the engineering staff, who can transfer their knowledge to other countries, but it does apply to the administrative staff whose stock-in-trade, as it were, is knowledge of a particular country. It may be that in the light of that, and in the light of the policy which is being pursued, that pension rights should be increased. I do not know, but I think this is an aspect of the matter which the right hon. Gentleman should certainly keep in mind.
In conclusion, I want to say that in listening to the right hon. Gentleman I had a sense of how wide is this landscape 1396 and how impossible it is for any of us in the course of the time we can take in the Committee to do any more than touch it with a few broad strokes of the brush. However, in approaching this responsibility this afternoon we should all like to say two things definitely.
The first is addressed to the service over which the right hon. Gentleman presides. We want to tell these people that they have reason to be proud of their achievements in the past year and that they can be sure of our confidence in the still heavier tasks which lie ahead. Let the Committee make no mistake about this; these Far Eastern issues will have their reaction on every single part of the territories over which the right hon. Gentleman has to preside, and it is the officers whose work we are considering today who will have to bear the brunt of explanation, exposition and exhortation in relation to the propaganda which they will have to meet.
The right hon. Gentleman wants to spend more on propaganda and explanation. I think he should not hesitate to do it because we have to carry these people with us not merely by order but in their hearts and in their convictions, and to do that we must give them as much information as they get from other sources. That is the one thing we want to do, to give encouragement and help to the right hon. Gentleman's service.
The other thing is addressed to the peoples themselves, and it is that they have our deep friendship and good will. We hope that that message will go out to them from this Debate and that they will be encouraged to work with us for their own greater future happiness and, as I believe, for the future peace of the world.
§ 5.2 p.m
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
I recently read the Annual Report of my right hon. Friend. Anyone who has read it must realise what an enormous amount of activity is going on at present in the Colonial Territories. In most of these territories in the past there was an almost entire absence of finance, and the pioneers who went out there built a few roads and put up a few houses in which to live and gradually built railways, but as a rule they had no general plan because plans did not need to be made. What they had 1397 to get first of all were the absolute necessities for carrying out any administration at all.
I am glad to say that funds have been very much increased and that the Colonial Office and the Colonial Territories are now working to overall plans. When one has an overall plan one gets twice as far with the same funds and same energy as one does when one is without an overall plan. I am glad to see that in these plans the Colonies are not depending entirely on aid from the British taxpayer. There are limits to what the British taxpayer can stand or will stand, and it is only right that these Colonies should incur loans, as they are doing, to build up the enormous funds which are required for their development.
I can assure my right hon. Friend from long experience that if the Colonies are made responsible for obtaining their own money and paying a very modest rate of interest for it, they will have more respect for the donors than if the money is ladled out from the British taxpayer as a free gift. My right hon. Friend suggested that more funds would be necessary because the Colonial Development Fund is rapidly being spent. I should not like to guess what funds will be required, but eventually they will have to be enormous. My right hon. Friend should allow the Colonies to raise these funds by loans, for they will appreciate the money better when they have to repay it and pay a slight interest charge on it.
In the last few years a new system has been evolved for developing the Colonies. Two huge Corporations with very large funds have been set up, the Food Corporation and the other Corporation. I consider it an enormous misfortune that the groundnuts scheme has miscarried to a large extent so far. That scheme was needed not only to provide oils and fats for the world but to keep parts of Africa from starvation. In spite of all that has been done, great areas in the Colonies are threatened with starvation today, and it is only by such schemes as these that the Colonies can be developed to provide the food and the exports of oil and such things which will enable them to buy food and other things from outside.
South-East Asia is one of the most prolific parts of the world, and that area is threatened with famine today. Owing to the breakdown in Burma the rice culti- 1398 vation of that great rice bowl has fallen roughly by half, and the same thing is happening in Indo-China, and the population of adjacent areas is threatened with famine. As far as our Colonies are concerned, my right hon. Friend has a colossal task ahead even to find food to keep the people alive. It is the same task as we had in the 50 years before we gave up our rule in India.
To enhance the difficulties, a new force has appeared. It really appeared a long time ago, but it has only recently come into prominence. It is the force of Communist imperialism. My right hon. Friend will find himself plagued at every hand's turn by the Communists in the Colonies, the Fifth Column of the Russian Politburo. They are posing as the champions of the coloured races. They are going to "liberate" their friends from the alleged tyranny of my right hon. Friend and when they have done so they are going to reduce them to the state of political serfs. Their propaganda is telling. They are flying the racial flag, which is a very inflammable flag in Colonial territories.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) that we have to combat this Communism somehow or other and that it will be a very difficult task. The general statement which I hear is that all we have to do to combat Communism is to give people enough to eat and drink and to raise their standard of living and then all will be well. I do not believe one word of that. Even if you do raise their standard of living, if they fall for this racial clamour they will become Communists all the same. We want to raise the standard of living as far as it can be done, but there must also be counter-propaganda and counter-instruction.
Because of the difficulties of language and the absence of communications and various other difficulties in the Colonies, I suggest that the chief means is the radio set. By setting radio sets up in public places and thus speaking to the people and telling them the truth at suitable times in the day a great deal can be done. In the House the other day I put a Question about a method which is being tried out in Southern Rhodesia where a very simple and cheap receiving set has been evolved. My right hon. Friend gave me an encouraging answer about the spread of the use of that simple radio set among the 1399 people. The two things must be worked together. By all means let us raise the standard of living, but we must also get at the minds of the people as well as their stomachs if we are to combat Communism.
My right hon. Friend is dealing with a population of about 65 million, most of whom are living on a subsistence level, in a terrible state of ignorance and bad health, suffering from malnutrition and various other diseases. The problem is colossal. I know my right hon. Friend well. I have a profound respect for him. I know that he is full of Welsh enthusiasm. He has a colossal task before him. He, the Government and other Governments have launched an enormous crusade to raise the standard of living, physically and mentally, of 65 million people. The French and the Belgians have a similar problem. It is one of the most colossal problems of our time.
Apart from the humanitarian aspects of it and the fact that the creation of wealth where it does not now exist will benefit not only the Colonies but us as well, it is important because it is part of the world struggle against Communism. Communism is cashing in on this colour question, and when my right hon. Friend is fighting disease, poverty and ignorance in the Colonies he is also fighting Communist imperialism.
My right hon. Friend did not mention population, but population is the economic problem of the Colonies. Let us face the facts and state the position. In nearly all the Colonies in the tropics the people, however poor, are able to double their population in 35 or 40 years. Anyone with experience of Indian administration knows of the problem created by the enormous increase in population during our rule from 150 million to over 400 million, and realises how difficult it was to cope with it by increasing the production of wealth comparably with the increase in the number of children who have to be educated, clothed and fed. These people sometimes produce children quicker than the Government or private individuals can produce wealth. The task is easier today when we have new means of producing wealth which we had not when we were ruling India. Modern science and machinery, the bulldozer and so on, are symbols of what can be done. 1400 I tell my right hon. Friend that it can be done, but it is a colossal task.
The other day I posed a question to which the Minister did not give me a satisfactory answer. Recently the Barbados Legislative Council set up a committee to consider this terrible problem of population and to devise means for meeting the enormous increase. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that, although these Colonies are not self-governing, the various legislatures should be asked to set up committees of the Council of Elected Members to face the problem, by having responsibility put upon them. I hope he will reconsider that suggestion because it is no use teaching these people to depend on the British taxpayer. They must be taught to face their own problems and rely on themselves.
Since the days when I served in the East the work of the Colonial Office has completely changed. In my day it interfered often in trivial matters of finance and administration and the Colonies had to send all sort of schemes home for approval. The course of events has forcibly changed that, and the Colonial Office today is largely a political office, dealing with administration only in so far as it has to approve of certain administrative acts because the Secretary of State for the Colonies is responsible to the House. That is an excellent change because it leaves the administrative job to the only men who can do it, the men on the spot, who have forgotten more about their Colonies than most people outside are ever able to learn. The thing is to supply them with competent administrators and technicians from this end and let them get on with the work subject to a general control by the Colonial Secretary.
We are all engaged in a wonderful experiment, in a generous and liberal policy in making the vast transfer of power which we have made in India, Burma and Ceylon. We do it with a full heart. We want these people to be independent and self-respecting and we want them to stand on their own feet economically. However, as my right hon. Friend has said, it is useless for these people to expect to be independent and to have responsible government while somebody outside finances the show. I suggest that whatever we do in this great crusade, unless we can overcome the 1401 lethargy of the mass of the native peoples concerned, we shall fail. Most of these people have a different philosophy of life from ours. Most of us strive to better ourselves, but a lot of these people do not want to work to do that. We must change their attitude towards life or we shall not succeed in this vast effort.
I said in this House two years ago that it is idle to imagine that Britain—which as regards its area would hardly be missed if it were taken out of vast Nigeria—can develop with its resources these enormous territories, provide social services for 65 million people, educate them, provide all the roads, railways and the rest. It cannot be done. I suggested then, and I suggest now, that the help must come from all the nations in U.N. Following the remarks of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington, I would prefer those nations who criticise our Colonial Government, which often is far superior to theirs, instead of criticism on matters of which they know little and of which they speak without any scruple, to put their hands in their pockets and put up the money to finance the enormous development required. Instead of leaving it to Britain and France and Belgium and President Truman's Fourth Point, I suggest that in the U.N. Assembly they be pressed to do this, because they will benefit from the development of these Colonies just as much as the rest of the world.
While it is not so common as it used to be, I often read denunciations of the men on the spot, especially in the Colonial Service and in the Civil Service of India. They were supposed to be the last word in bureacratic inefficiency, to carry blind spots in their eyes, and so on. I speak from experience of the administrative services in many Colonies when I say that we sent out from here some of the picked men of our race, and that no other country in the world has succeeded in sending out to our overseas ruling bureaucracies men of the integrity and ability of these people.
I speak, I think, for most of my party when I say that we thoroughly appreciate the work done in very trying circumstances by these people who bear the heat and burden of the day. We are behind them. I agree with the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leaming- 1402 ton that we must make them feel that they have our confidence. Their task now is even more difficult than it used to be. In the old days they went out to West Africa and died like flies. They do not do that today because of medical science. Things were frightfully rough physically in those days but the type of man who went out did not bother about physical inconveniences.
Things are better today in that respect, but the political environment now makes the work ten times more difficult. I remember these men in India and Ceylon and elsewhere being called diehard obscurantists who resisted all advances towards self-government, but the fact is that in the east in the past as in Nigeria and in other countries of Africa today, the natives said that their district officer was their father and their mother. These men are the pick of our race, and I strongly deprecate anyone who runs them down. We are all behind them in the formidable task lying ahead of helping to win this enormous crusade which my right hon. Friend is conducting.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North)
I appreciate very much the privilege of addressing the Committee in this Debate, because I am always deeply interested in the colonies. I trust that the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) will not mind my not following him too closely in what he said. I think we all recognise his ability and his knowledge of the Colonial Service, and know that he speaks from very great experience. I share very much his deep concern about the possibility of the development of Communism amongst the African races. I have been shocked beyond measure by some of the serious examples which have come to my notice and I should like some time to tell the Colonial Secretary about them. It is amazing what development has taken place, particularly in East Africa, during the last year or two and the progress which some of the Communist efforts there have made.
Although my remarks are intended to apply to the Colonies generally, they are bound to relate specifically to East Africa, the Colony which I know so well. I visit it regularly at least three times a year and can, therefore, claim to speak with a little practical experience. In accordance with practice, I should at 1403 once declare what interests of mine would benefit from the adoption of any of the suggestions I might make during the Debate. I have considerable business interests in East Africa and I have also a farm there, but I trust that I, personally, will not benefit specifically from anything which I may now say.
I should like to refer to three points in the speech of the Colonial Secretary. He told us much about the possibilities of trade union development in the Colonies. All of us, I think, fully recognise the benefits that will follow from this kind of development, but I beg of the right hon. Gentleman not to overstress trade union development from the colonial point of view. Some Colonies are more developed and are more ready for trade union development than others, and I hope that considerations of this nature will be borne in mind as such developments are sponsored by the Colonial Office.
I should like to add my words of tribute to the work rendered by the Colonial Service, for whom I have the highest regard; they do an amazingly fine job. But I deplore the number of vacancies which exist in the Service. No doubt everything possible is being done by those concerned to try to fill these vacancies, but I feel that much more could be done in the way of publicity. I know from experience that when business vacancies in East Africa arise, one cannot cope with the applications which are received, literally, a thousand at a time. I may be wrong, but my firm belief is that not enough publicity is given to vacancies in the Service as they arise, and that there are very many people who would wish to take advantage of these opportunities if they became generally known.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the forthcoming visit by the Minister of State to East Africa. I, for one, with an interest in East Africa, welcome this further interest displayed by the Government in sending out a Minister who can see for himself the conditions on the spot. There is nothing better than frequent visits of this kind. I appeal, however, to the Colonial Secretary to see that his right hon. Friend does not go out to East Africa with preconceived ideas. On many occasions I have seen Ministers set out 1404 with fixed, determined views even before they reach the Colonies, and this can be a very serious matter. I trust that the Minister will, at least, listen seriously to the views that are put to him by the Colonies.
In the disturbed world in which we live today, the Colonies assume an even greater importance in our minds. I am strongly in favour of encouraging as many people as possible to go out to the Colonies and establish themselves there, because I believe that this would be for the benefit of everyone. I like to look upon the Colonies as one large British Isles, and I feel that the more our people are able to find the means to settle in the Colonies, the greater will be the contribution to the betterment of the world as a whole.
We must never forget that the people in the Colonies are our own people, our own kith and kin. I support my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) in stressing that in a Colony like East Africa, our own people, who have done so much out there, must have the complete support of the Government here, so that they know exactly where they stand. There must never be any misunderstanding or lack of appreciation of the way in which they, as pioneers, have developed the Colony to the benefit of all concerned. In a world in which people's minds are being easily poisoned with Communism, we have an opportunity in the Colonies to resist its progress by our own democratic principles. Above all, we hold the fidelity and the loyalty of the people of the Colonies by the continuance of wise British administration.
East Africa is a territory which requires still further consolidation and development. As the Colonial Secretary has said, considerable progress has undoubtedly been achieved—none of us denies that for a moment; but much more can be done, particularly in the provision and improvement of roads, docks, railways, telephones and communications generally. The right hon. Gentleman is, I am sure, well aware of this. I have always supported the idea, in principle, of the groundnut scheme. I know that that subject does not come within the measure of this Debate, but since the hon. Member for Swindon has referred to it, I want to confirm that I have always 1405 supported the general principle behind it. The unfortunate way in which things are going at present is, however, very disturbing to many of us who know a lot about this matter. My point is that if the Government, to date, have been prepared to spend£35 million on that one scheme, then how much more could have been done, with far less outlay, to benefit the whole of East African development, even of communications alone?
The development of communications is the responsibility of the Government, and it is entirely wrong that British companies should be expected to install their own. Their energies should be devoted instead to the advancement of their own interests. The development of the country as a whole is the task of the Government and not of the private enterprise interests who go out to the Colonies.
I turn now to the needs of agriculture, a matter which is certainly not restricted to East Africa. However, in East Africa, in particular, it is essential, as the Minister said, to guarantee stable markets for the future. The people, and farmers especially, have to contend not only with the hazards of agriculture, which are well known to farmers in this country, but with the additional hazards of the tropical areas. In order that they may put their best into their efforts, the farmers need to have assured markets for what they produce. The recent pig contract by the Ministry of Food with the farmers of East Africa is undoubtedly a step in the right direction and I am very thrilled to see this achievement being carried into effect.
The position of each Colony should be considered on its individual circumstances. By that I mean that proper regard must be paid to their economic viewpoint. Some Colonies, as we know, depend solely upon agriculture, and others upon sugar. We have to weigh up the pros and cons of the individual needs of each Colony. The circumstances of one Colony may merit more priority and help than another, but, after all, we are really all one family and working for one common cause. I suggest that the principle of the strong helping the weak must apply in colonial affairs. Therefore the agricultural side must be very much safeguarded, for undoubtedly in many Colonies, particularly in East Africa, it is the lifeblood of the people. It is the 1406 duty of the Government to provide the basic services and functions and not, as regrettably they have done in this country, to interfere with business. They should keep specifically to the things that support the business community and agriculture and not start interfering in something about which they know nothing. I know that will not appeal to hon. Members opposite, but we believe in the efficiency of private enterprise.
§ Mr. Harris
I am advocating that Colonial Governments, supported by our Government here, should keep to the administering of roads and docks, and so on, and keep out of private enterprise ventures, with which they are not able to cope.
§ Mr. Harris
When we nationalise a service we have to guarantee roads, telephones and everything else. That, in my opinion, is a Government function, but when they start butting in on something else and competing against private enterprise, they are doing the wrong thing and going beyond their bounds.
§ Mr. Harris
I could give many instances—groundnuts is one—where the Government themselves try to compete by putting up the money and making the position intolerable for private enterprise, while they have all the resources at their disposal. That does not lead to efficiency and cannot do so. I feel that the Government's task is to support business and agriculture and safeguard them from calamity.
An example I put before the Minister is the possibility which could easily befall many East African farmers through the threat of a swarm of locusts. I refer particularly to this danger as it affects East Africa. I do not suppose any hon. Member has not read of, even if he has not seen, the tremendously devastating effects 1407 of locust attacks. In my opinion, this is one of the things in which the Government can help. Action can be taken only on a governmental basis, as the farmer cannot go into the wilds of Africa and tackle the locusts himself. I trust that the Government will make a major effort to deal with the menace.
There are two aspects. The first is to destroy the menace itself and the second is to meet the effect when it occurs. In regard to the first aspect, a wonderful job has undoubtedly been done by the Desert Locust Survey. The Colonial Secretary told me on 5th July thatteams have been at work destroying incipient swarms of locusts in the breeding areas to the north of British East Africa.I think he would agree that even those great efforts have not, on the face of them, been entirely successful. He also said thatrecent reports indicate that the rate at which locusts are breeding is likely to demand a major campaign to destroy them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th July, 1950; Vol. 477, c. 23.]I am sure the House will be satisfied that plans are being discussed with representatives of other countries concerned and with Dr. Uvarov, the Director of the Anti-Locust Research Centre. I trust that following these discussions the most urgent action will be taken, as the farmers must be assured that every safeguard is provided to see that their efforts are not destroyed by overnight attacks of locusts.
In the event of attacks occurring, the financial help should be provided to save farmers from complete ruin which an overnight attack can undoubtedly mean. Some scheme for contributions from the farmers could be devised on the lines of our war damage scheme. If the burden on the taxpayers is likely to be very heavy, I feel the farmers would contribute—[HON. MEMBERS: "Well done."] I think this is a serious matter, although it may be humorous to those who are ignorant about it. A farm can be destroyed overnight and that cannot be for the benefit of our country or of the territory concerned. Such a scheme can only be undertaken by a Government; no insurance company could undertake it and it is most unfair that it should be left to individuals. Just before the war some suggestions were put forward, and I hope our Gov- 1408 ernment will take the initiative with the Colonial Governments concerned in trying to devise a scheme to meet this terrible menace.
No country that is dependent on an agricultural community can also support its people without the backing of secondary industries. Such industries are essential to support the emigration to the Colonies of the people we need there, the mechanics, artisans and experienced men who are needed in the Colonies for development on sound, economic lines. In East Africa this is undoubtedly an urgent necessity, but to achieve it to the necessary extent and with the necessary speed, a closer link is needed between the Colony and this country. This subject, to my mind, is still not receiving enough serious attention.
One particular difficulty of which I have experience is that manufacturers of canned goods are looking to export markets, and particularly to the British Isles, for the development of their canneries, but they are hampered by uncertainty, especially when the Government is the controlling factor. I would instance the question of sugar, which is an essential ingredient in any cannery. It has risen in price twice in the last year, from 24 cents to 37 cents a pound. The small colonial producer has no chance of success unless he is protected against such catastrophic changes.
This can be achieved only by even closer understanding, and closer understanding can come only from closer association between Colonial Governments and our own Government. It is the duty of the Secretary of State to take the initiative in this respect. Signs of misunderstanding, unfortunately, occur frequently because many irresponsible voices are heard on colonial affairs. The Committee may have heard a statement on conditions in regard to the Suk tribe from an hon. Member opposite, which was aptly described as misleading and harmful by responsible East African people. I am referring to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) and the reference he made to the Suk tribe.
The responsibility, of course, lies with the Colonial Office to foster a closer liaison between our people and the Colonial peoples in their problems. Matters of importance in mutual trade 1409 between the Colonies and this country should be closely co-ordinated. Regulations concerning imports into this country should likewise correspond with Colonial arrangements for export to this country. This is essential in order to avoid confusion which, unfortunately, is still taking place. Facilities for Customs drawback which are enjoyed in this country should also be available in the Colonies to assist exports there. In many respects, the Colonies are not brought into sufficient co-ordination with our own legislation. Fortunately they are at least still behind us in the level of taxation, and if we expect our people in the Colonies to go on and newcomers to go out there and develop those territories, I trust that the level of taxation will not be increased.
I conclude by stressing to the Secretary of State for the Colonies the view that we should give closer guidance to Colonial Governments on problems of industrial development, and give greater help in problems with which they have not the resources in those Colonies to deal.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
I wish to limit my remarks to a more restricted field than previous speakers have done. Recently we had a commission of inquiry investigating matters in the Eastern Province of Nigeria. Some of us who are trade unionists were greatly disturbed by events in that part of the world, and we were rather surprised at the delay in publishing the commission's report. Many inquiries were made in this House about what was happening. Eventually, we got the report and we saw recorded there a very surprising account of events in that part of the world. Some substantial charges were made not only against some of the trade unionists there, but also against the Government. This matter has been made the subject of inquiry by the Secretary of State, and as we have subsequently seen there have been despatches between the Governor, Sir John Macpherson, whom some of us have had the pleasure of meeting, and whom we respect as a person, and the Secretary of State himself.
In the report, Colonial No. 256, reference is made in Part III to the Govern- 1410 ment of Nigeria. The Commission said—I am quoting from page 13:we cannot hold the Government altogether free from criticism. It must be borne in mind that, unlike the case in Britain, Trade Unionism in Nigeria was not of native growth. It was deliberately planted on the people by the British administration as part of the industrial system. … We fear that not all the technical departments were imbued with that faith and idealism"—which was to be desired. A little further on it is stated:Few effective practical steps were taken to attune them to the new trends which called for a different approach.While I must confess that I have not had the time to study the verbatim report of evidence an objective examination of the account contained in the report from which I have been quoting is somewhat disturbing.
We see here that there was apparently no call from the centre for expert advice. There was a Commissioner of Labour, but matters were largely left to officials on the spot. While something is being done by my right hon. Friend to put the matter on a proper basis we should like to hear more about what took place. We understand from what is taking place today that a Ministry of Labour is to be set up in Nigeria, but we are concerned not only with what happened in Enugu and other parts of Nigeria subsequently; we are concerned that there shall be a proper grip of the social problems in every Colony.
There was a good report—I say that since I had something to do some time ago in compiling it—on these administrative problems in the Colonies. It was published two years ago. I am referring to the First Report of the Select Committee on Estimates on Colonial Development. In that Report we made certain proposals. For example, in paragraph 45, we said that:A small permanent Organisation and Methods section should be established in the Colonial Office with the task of continuously studying and reporting on the technique of administration, Colony by Colony.In their reply, the Colonial Office said:For reasons explained in evidence to the Committee it has seemed better to approach this problem in another way. The O and M Division of the Treasury has agreed to arrange a training course in O and M work for Colonial Service officers. The first course, which will last for three months, is due to be held in the spring of 1949.I will not read the whole extract.
1411 What is happening in Nigeria in respect of trade unionism seems to be happening in other parts of the Administration. When questions are asked about the Colonies, particularly about Nigeria, it is notable that there is an absence of reliable data. For example, does anyone know exactly how many people there are in Nigeria? Is there any kind of statistical department there which has a grip of those facts and figures which are necessary if the territory is to be properly developed? What is happening in Nigeria may, we are afraid, be happening in other parts of the colonial territories or Empire.
In short, are these matters based upon the experience which we have gained since the operation of the colonial development welfare schemes? Are these being co-ordinated and used in such a way, and is a formula being worked out which can be applied in each of the Colonies? It seemed to me, from my reading of the report of the trade union commission, that people who did not understand the subject were handling labour problems. Therefore, I want to be sure, as a trade unionist and as a well-wisher for the rightful development of the peoples in the Colonies, that people in the Colonial Office are getting a proper training in matters relating to trade unionism and social problems of every kind so that when these great difficulties arise, as they will from time to time, we shall not have to resort, except in cases of great extremity, to rifle fire which results in men being shot down, as happened in this unfortunate case.
I know that some people in the police service and other parts of the Administration were castigated and taken to task by the commission of inquiry, and the report was accepted by the Secretary of State. Certain proposals are made for sending out expert advisers, for the setting up of conciliation machinery and boards and arbitration tribunals. But is what happened in Enugu typical of what is happening in other parts of the colonial territories, or are we looking at this problem in the light of the revelations which were made in the case of Enugu and elsewhere?
It is not an easy problem, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), who said that we should listen to the men on the spot and give them the maximum of latitude. Their 1412 day to day experience must be something unique and special. But let us make quite sure that we are sending out not only people who have come from the secondary schools, from which they have passed into the universities, or who have come out of the Army, but some of the people who appreciate that we are living in days of progress and that new ideas are abroad, men who understand the basic problems of poverty, disease and ignorance and can talk to the people in the territories into which they go in terms of brotherhood and fellowship, and not with the idea of beating down the people there with a big stick.
I know that the best of our men who have gone out there are not like that, but I am afraid that the answers to these problems, which, in the case of Britain, have taken 100 or 150 years to develop, cannot be imposed in an academic way. There has to be a human sympathy about these matters which can only come from men who, born out of our own industry, can go out and help our brothers on the way.
I hope that the events as disclosed will not be glossed over. I hope we shall face up to the fact that certain mistakes were made. I am not going into the whole story, but attempts were made to remove explosives or whatever they were, and nobody actually knew the size of the job. An army of armed police stood around while the men were collecting and waiting to go down in the pit. These poor chaps wondered what it was ail about. They worked themselves up into a frenzy and the incident occurred in a very short time. Any observer will see that in places like Nigeria there are irresponsible elements abroad. In many places we are sitting on the safety valve. Unless an enlightened and informed approach is made we shall hear something more in other parts of the Empire.
I wish to be assured today of what the Select Committee said two years ago that we have sufficient evidence now on which we should be able to base a formula—not applicable as a facsimile to every territory but adapted to local circumstances, because there should be a measure of flexibility—in support of certain basic services technical training, health statistics, education and the rest of it. There should be these things available, and men properly trained and with proper social ideas available to implement them.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Morecambe and Lonsdale)
I wish to say a word about the relationship between Africans and Europeans in Africa, with special reference to the very great dangers which face the white civilisation in Africa generally, or at any rate in Africa south of Khartoum; and of the relationship between this country and South Africa in this matter. I wish to welcome the statement made by the Minister and the statement by my right hon. Friend from this side of the Committee emphasizing—
§ Sir I. Fraser
The point was made by the Minister, and echoed by my right hon. Friend, that the white man has rights in Africa. It is so important that this Parliament, so many of whose hon. Members have no experience of living in that country and who are so sympathetic, should not misunderstand and lead other people, and, through our Press and through the local vernacular Press, the Africans themselves, to misunderstand our position generally in Africa. As the Minister said, many of these white people in Africa have been there for many generations. In South Africa, for example—and I will submit to you, Sir Charles, if the point is raised, that this is only by way of illustration because of its effect upon Africa, for we can no more divide Africa and its problems than we can divide peace—in South Africa, for example, the white man is no more an immigrant than the Bantu themselves. It is neither the country of the one nor the other because both came there about the same time.
It is true to say that the Bantu in Africa owe to Europeans much of the very high degree of peace, security and nutrition they now enjoy. Europeans, not merely British Europeans, went out to this country, and after conquest and settlement applied some of the things that they knew, which these other people did not, and in doing so they rendered a great service. Their roots went down and they have become part of the people of that land. Our policy, therefore, should not 1414 be based upon a kind of academic trusteeship which regards the role of the white man solely as that of taking care for the time being.
The point I am coming to is this. The Minister appealed to us to be very careful in what we say. All of us, including the Minister himself, ought to be careful of what we say when we talk about transition periods and make speeches, especially when we speak as Ministers and say "We are aiming at self-government. We will push along and teach you fellows here"—in this Colony or that "to attain self government." The primitive man does not understand anything which is not to happen to him immediately. If, after exciting his interest in this matter, he says, "When is this going to be, baas? Is it tomorrow?," and we say, "Oh, it is a matter of history, we are working it out," he does not understand, but thinks we have broken faith. All of us, therefore, had better he careful in speaking about these matters because we are reported and misreported to a very large extent in the vernacular Press.
There is a particular misunderstanding about the native policy in South Africa which I think should be in our minds when we are considering our Colonial Empire in Africa. There are those in this House who are extremely unsympathetic to the policy of apartheid, as it is called. They do not understand that that is not a new policy of a particular party in South Africa, though it is a new name to us.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Touche)
The hon. Member cannot discuss the policy of the South African Government in particular. He can discuss. Africa. References to South Africa cannot be excluded entirely, but it is a matter of degree.
§ Sir I. Fraser
Thank you, Mr. Touche. I hope to be very careful in this matter and not to offend. The point I am endeavouring to make is that Great Britain should be extraordinarily careful in her colonial policy in Africa because a nation in our Commonwealth and equal in status with us, happens to reside at the bottom end of that area in South Africa and also 1415 has a native policy. The plea I would make is that His Majesty's Government here in Britain and the Government of South Africa, and the Government in Kenya, and all these other Governments which are either wholly independent, as is South Africa, or to a large extent independent as Kenya is, or even more so Southern Rhodesia, ought to consider their policies the one to the other, as well as all these different parts of Africa and nations interested in Africa.
Primitive people cannot be expected to understand that white men should behave in a different manner in one part from the way in which they behave in another part. If the South Africans themselves do not unite to study this matter and if we do not unite to study these matters with South Africa, Rhodesia and Kenya, then we are running the greatest possible risk of inflammation and threat to the whole of our Colonial Empire which, by a little forethought, might very easily be avoided. Freud said, in writing of the mind, something which I wish to adapt for my purpose when I say that there is in Africa both a conscious and a subconscious Africa. The conscious Africa is a very small percentage of most of the key intellects who have had good education either in a Colonial Office school or a missionary school, and who have perhaps come to England under private scholarships or Colonial Office scholarships. They have learned, as well as they can in the limited years at their disposal, something of our Western civilisation, our way of life and our methods of government.
They go back to their country and genuinely try to carry out what they have learned. They themselves are greatly frustrated by the conditions to which they return. We must not imagine that a civilisation like ours can be learned in one generation—in a few years—even by a few able men. Behind this conscious Africa, conscious of its political growth, and its coming nationhood—race conscious if you like—is a vast subconscious mind 100 or 1,000 times greater in numbers which is not in contact with the outside world to any extent. It does not read the vernacular Press and it is not in any sense ready for the kind of development which can only take place in a very long time.
1416 It is supremely dangerous when Ministers and others appear to make promises which are completely unreal so far as the great mass of these people are concerned. I can perhaps illustrate my argument by finishing the point I was trying to make about South Africa when I was nearly called to order. It is not true that the policy of apartheid in South Africa is a new invention of a particular Government. It is the understanding of the problem and the way of considering the relationship between whites and Africans which has existed in South Africa for some 300 years. That must have its influence upon the territories which are north of South Africa and upon the way in which the Colony of Southern Rhodesia and the territories to the north which, for all I know, may soon be amalgamated with it—
§ Mr. Wigg
On a point of order. The hon. Gentleman spoke as if I had raised objection to him talking about South Africa. That was not my purpose. I want to be sure that if I am fortunate enough to catch your eye and if I wish to refer to the policy in the Union, I shall not find myself out of order.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has been out of order so far, but he has been very near the borderline. I am sure that the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will have the same treatment.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I wish to make the point that there is a problem for the white man to think about. We are the greatest Colonial Power in Africa and it is extremely unwise for us to misunderstand the policy of so important and so great a Power as South Africa in that Continent. We ought to consult with them at every stage.
I suspect that there are inhibitions in the Government about the setting up of what I call the Central Dominion—Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. I suspect that those inhibitions and doubts in the Government and the Colonial Office arise, to some extent, out of their view of South African policy. That is an example of the way in which understanding between us and South Africa is relevant to a Colonial Debate. My view is that if we are to wait for the setting up of a Central Dominion in Africa until all men of any 1417 colour in that Central Dominion can be treated equally in the economic and political field, we shall wait for ever or, at any rate, for such a long time that it will not interest any of us or our children.
It is incredible to anyone who has lived in these countries, or who has stayed there for more than a fleeting visit, to imagine that political equality can possibly be attained, understood or worked by the great majority of the Bantu people, particularly those south of the Zambezi. If all this development which could take place in Central Africa has to wait for that, then we shall waste a great number of our opportunities.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton)
Do I take it that the hon. Gentleman feels that we ought to be sympathetic to the conception of a permanently inferior, subordinate and segregated Africa?
§ Sir I. Fraser
I never said anything of the sort. I think that Cecil Rhodes's doctrine that there should be equality for all civilised men was an extraordinarily good and workable proposition. It is one which the Colonial Office might well adopt or re-adopt. Indeed, to show that I am not so partial as all that to the Malan Government. I wish that they had—
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is really getting out of order in discussing the Government of South Africa.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I commend the doctrine of equality for all civilised men to the Minister for application or re-application in the Colonial Empire. It is a doctrine which bears examination. It gives all black men the feeling that there is no technical bar between them and others to the highest rights, including the right to vote, yet it admits a sufficiently small number of them to make the outvoting of the whites by the blacks impossible. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite who laugh only show their great ignorance. They show that they have not lived in these countries and that they do not understand the position.
There may come a time when we can lay down our trusteeship in some of these territories and hand the task over to the Bantu population, but such a time has not yet arrived and it will not arrive in our lifetime. I have lived in these lands. 1418 I was brought up in the country and I am a South African citizen, perhaps the only one in this House. It is not right to laugh at these points unless one has been there and had a look at the conditions.
The black man in Africa must continue to develop. He ought to be protected against exploitation and to have proper means of representation. In some instances, he should be represented through trade unions, but not always. One cannot even introduce organisations like trade unions among primitive people without extraordinary care, because the very benefits which the trade unions confer upon people who understand how to work them make them most dangerous in the hands of ignorant men. It is difficult enough for wise and skilled trade union leaders here in Britain, like the Foreign Secretary and Mr. Deakin, to control a few hundred dockers or a few hundred motor drivers at Smithfield. How much more difficult it is for a few Africans, without any tradition or history in this matter and with very little training, to undertake such a job.
I have the greatest admiration for our Colonial Service. They have a high sense of duty almost akin to that of priesthood. They show self-sacrifice. I only wish that some of those in high places in the Colonial Office in London had had personal experience of Africa at some period in their lives. I think that, before anyone becomes head of a department in the Colonial Office—I almost said before he becomes a Colonial Secretary—he ought to have some experience in living among these folk and seeing how charming, amiable, able and clever they are, but also of realising that, in very many respects, they are as children.
We have a great duty in Africa, but there is also a great warning. If we white people, and all the European people who are interested in Africa, do not watch out and consult together, we may, within a measurable time, find ourselves threatened with expulsion from Africa, and it will not be only the white people who would lose by that.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
I hope the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Sir Ian Fraser) will forgive me if I do not follow him into the dangerous waters of racial policy in Africa. I do not wish to incur your dis- 1419 pleasure, Mr. Touche, to begin with, and, secondly, it is a very big question, and I want to talk about another matter altogether. I cannot help, however, referring to one point which the hon. Gentleman raised when he said that we must be particularly careful not to regard those who speak for native Africa as representing anything like a large body of opinion out there. The hon. Gentleman said that, in his opinion, these people have not developed, and we all agree that that is so, and that it will be a long time before it will be possible to hand over government to any of these Colonies out there.
On the other hand, what the hon. Gentleman said seemed to me very reminiscent of the kind of thing which I used to hear as a young man about what are now the self-governing Dominions of India and Pakistan, and, quite clearly, we can see now that that point of view was not a very helpful one. We have to help these people to develop so that they will follow along the lines of parliamentary government, with civic rights, in the establishment of which we have set an example to the world. No doubt, in time, they will do so.
This Debate on the administration of Colonial affairs gives us a chance to review our policy in Africa and Asia, and there is no theme which is more urgent. The war in Korea and the Communist domination of China are a challenge to the Colonial Powers to put their houses in order, and I feel strongly that military measures alone will not solve the problem. Communism has a certain natural attraction to native peoples who are still under foreign control, and, in those countries in South-East Asia which are still under foreign control, such as Malaya, in our case, there is an added responsibility for us to see that Communism does not spread there by raising the standard of living of the people. That is the only real remedy.
Some time ago, a conference took place at Sydney at which the Commonwealth nations were represented and which resulted in a proposal that ES million sterling—not a large sum, but quite useful to begin with—should be set aside for technical and economic development in Southern Asia. I understand that there is to be a further conference in Colombo, at which this proposal is to be further examined in detail and the allocations 1420 made, over a period of six years, of this sum of £8 million sterling.
I think it is very desirable that we should regard all the Colonies in South-East Asia as one in this matter—those for which we are responsible and those for which the French and Dutch are responsible—because in each of these Colonies the problem is exactly the same. I hope it will be possible for my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary to use this inter-Commonwealth effort to the full, especially with a view to seeing what can be done in Malaya towards raising the standard of living. I entirely agree with what my right hon. Friend said in his opening speech, when he stated that the most important thing is to see that the Colony is not dependent too much for its economy on one or two raw materials.
As regards Africa, the point I really want to raise is this. In the Colonial Vote, there is a sum set aside for medical and welfare work. That is very good, but I fear one thing. The sort of welfare and medical work which is being done is going to aggravate the population problem. It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but it is actually true of both Africa and Asia. The more children we save from dying, the more the figures of the population will grow, resulting in even worse conditions, or, at least, conditions no better than they are now. That is the great problem. The situation today is that, in a large part of Africa, one African peasant produces enough food for two, and no more.
Last year, I represented the Parliamentary Scientific Committee at a conference, at Lake Success, of scientists who were considering the application of President Truman's Point Four to the Colonial territories. In his inaugural address, President Truman put forward the special point of offering American assistance for raising standards of living throughout the colonial areas. That is the reason why I have sought the opportunity of addressing the Committee today. At that conference, I had the opportunity of hearing the views of scientists from all over the world, not only our own scientists at the Colonial Office, but also French, Belgian and Dutch scientists, very able men who have great knowledge of these problems of food production, and particularly in Africa.
There are, in Africa, two areas of food production. One is the undeveloped area 1421 where there is a very sparse population, and it is in these areas that we find that groundnut schemes are being developed, and where one can also grow cotton and tobacco for the world market to try to help the world economy. In these areas, we are not up against the problem of dealing with native Africans, but, over a very large part of central Africa, we are up against that problem. The population there is very backward indeed, and we cannot introduce any new ideas without a great deal of care and education. Indeed, if one introduces a new crop, one finds in some places the witch doctor coming by night and pulling the plants out to exorcise the evil spirits.
In this area, we find that the problem is on an entirely different basis because there is a great native population. There is, however, as I heard suggested by the experts speaking at Lake Success, a way out. The best way to get the African to accept new methods of cultivation seems to be by utilising the tribal system. The African has cultivated groundnuts for generations, but he has used a very primitive system of rotation. He clears the forest and for three or four years grows bananas and maize, together with groundnuts, and then allows the land to revert again to forest for about 20 years. It is possible, by using the tribal system, to get a new and better form of cultivation introduced into this part of Africa. Seeing that the African has not a very strong sense of private property in regard to land, it would be quite possible to develop a communal, co-operative method of farming based on the tribal system.
I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether it is not possible to try experiments along those lines. Our agricultural experts, together with those of France and Belgium, might be able to work out something like this.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us what geographical areas he is contemplating for these particular schemes?
§ Mr. Johnson
Would the hon. Gentleman specify what areas of sparse populations he is thinking of inside our Colonial Empire?
§ Mr. Price
I am thinking not of sparse populations, but of large populations. The point I wish to emphasise is that it would be quite possible for us, the French and the Belgians to put our heads together to see how we could raise the standard of agricultural production in these areas of native African population. I suggest, in this connection, that we should take the opportunity offered to us by President Truman's Point Four. The Americans have already begun to do a certain amount of work there.
I see that in the Estimates a sum of a few thousand pounds is devoted to geological surveys. Before one can really know what can be done with a large part of Central Africa, it is necessary to have a geological survey, and that can now best be done from the air. I hope it will be possible to get American help, because we have not a sufficient number of geologists to carry out a widespread geological survey of Central Africa. If that is done, we shall be able to take at least the first step towards the objective I have indicated.
The second thing is the eradication of the tsetse fly which still dominates a very large area of Africa. I understand that United States scientists have been making a survey, and I hope that in co-operation with them we can work along those lines. Further, the African native is very backward in what one might call his animal husbandry. The problem is not an easy one. To provide the African native with animals which can produce milk and meat like those in this continent, we must produce new types. Experiments have shown that it is no use taking cattle from Europe and setting them down in Africa. They cannot stand the climate.
§ Mr. Price
Experiments are being made of crossing the Zebu with the Guernsey. When I was at Beltsville research station, near Washington, last August, I learned that they were doing this. There, again, is something in which, I hope, we can co-operate with our friends in the United States. I suggest that in this matter the right hon. Gentleman consults with experts.
§ Mr. Bing
Does not my hon. Friend feel that he ought to pay some tribute to the work already being done on these lines in Northern Nigeria where they breed the Sokoto goat for Morocco leather, and where the control of rinderpest is taking place? He should at least pay tribute to what is being done by ourselves.
§ Mr. Price
I will certainly do that, and I am sorry that I did not do so. I hope the Committee will not object to my making these suggestions. They were subjects which we discussed at the conference I attended. I know that some of our experts are working on these problems, but a great deal more can and must be done.
Although we cannot discuss the groundnut scheme in this Debate, the lesson of that scheme up to the present shows that we must make adequate surveys before launching out on a large scale. As I have already said, groundnuts have been grown in Africa for generations past, but only under very primitive methods of rotation. We must find out much more about the nature of the soil, and the possibility of water retention in the soil before we can launch out on any large scheme. But there is no doubt that a great deal can be done. The growing of groundnuts and the extension of cotton and tobacco growing in these areas are absolutely vital.
I hope, therefore, that in the remarks I have made I have struck a new line. I suggest that these are ideas which can be followed further, as a means by which the population of Africa can be enabled to produce enough food to keep themselves in a decent state of living. If the welfare and medical work which is going on lowers the death-rate of children we shall be faced, increasingly, with the problem of raising food production. If we are to avoid political unrest and difficulties of that kind, this is the fundamental problem which must be tackled by all colonial countries.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
I usually enjoy the speeches of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Philips Price), but I found it difficult to follow him today, partly because he was largely inaudible on these benches. I hope that, in future, he will not use the expression "native people." That is an expression 1424 which is much resented. There are plenty of other expressions he could use. The other point, on which I should like to challenge him, is the suggestion that economic help alone can stop Communism.
§ Mr. Rankin (Glasgow, Tradeston)
I hope that when the hon. Member challenges my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West, about this description of the Africans, he will also deal with the expression "primitive peoples" used on the benches opposite.
§ Mr. Gammans
That expression is quite different. There is no suggestion of patronage about it. It is a well known scientific expression.
§ Mr. Philips Price
I never suggested that economic help alone would stop Communism. I said "together with military measures."
§ Mr. Gammans
That must have been one of the bits I missed. When the suggestion was made that more economic help should be given in order to break Communism, the hon. Friends of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, cheered. Let me develop the point, because there are many other hon. Gentlemen who believe it. Although it is our aim and objective to raise the standard of living, do not let us delude ourselves that we can prevent the spread of Communism in Asia or elsewhere merely by giving economic help. For one thing, we have not the economic help to give, and events of the past few days in Korea have shown that a bowl of rice cannot stop a Russian tank; and South Korea, helped by America in the past five years, was unable to resist armoured divisions. Whatever we are able to do in South-East Asia, or anywhere else, in the way of economic help will not, by itself, prevent the spread of Communism.
It is a very serious state of affairs that we cannot get enough men in the Colonial Service, and it is not for the reason which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies gave—full employment in this country.
§ Mr. Gammans
No, but it is a reason that came very glibly from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman. There is something else as well—I do not know whether 1425 it is pay, conditions of work, or uncertainty. Certainly, in the case of the administrative service, men who have no technical qualification behind them should have a guarantee that, if for any reason whatever, such as because of self-government, their careers are terminated in the Colonial Service, there is a niche for them in the Service here. I started my life in the administrative service of the Colonies, but if I had a son I would not let him follow me. I might make him a doctor or an engineer.
§ Mr. Gammans
The right hon. Gentleman might also consider the question of pensions. There are many colonial pensioners today who have not been able to acquire a home in this country, as the home civil servants have been able to do, and have not enough to live on.
What interests those of us who have taken part in Colonial Debates for years is the way in which, as time has gone on, the differences between the two sides of this Committee and the House have decreased.
§ Mr. Gammans
Perhaps in the mind of the hon. Member, but not in the minds of his hon. Friends. There have been differences, perhaps, about our methods, but not about our aims. It does not make very much difference now to the development of the Colonies what political party is in power in this country. In the constitutional field, in the last 10 years, the greatest single advance ever made was when my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Stanley), whose absence we all deplore, was Secretary of State for the Colonies. That was when he granted a constitution to Jamaica, with full adult suffrage, without any bars of colour, race or education. All subsequent advances have been based very much on that.
In the economic world we find the curious inversion, as so often occurs in British political life, that the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund, which has an element of charity in the good sense about it, was brought in by the Coalition Government, which was very largely Conservative, whereas what we might call the "hard-boiled" way of deal- 1426 ing with economics—the Colonial Development Corporation—was brought in by friends of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister. It was rightly brought in, for both have their place. It does not matter, either, who is in political power with regard to agricultural and medical research services. The mosquito has never heard of Transport House, or of the Conservative Central Office.
Perhaps the greatest progress recorded in this Report is the spectacular advance in medicine. One reads, for instance, that in Singapore the death rate is the same as in this country; and in the West Indies the expectation of life has gone up by 15 years since 1920. I can remember the tropics when one's servant at the same time as he put down the cruet put down the quinine bottle. Happily, those days are over for ever.
There are two points on the economic side of the Report. One was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden). It is that more credit should be given, possibly not by the Secretary of State but by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the extent to which our economic position in this country in the past six months has improved, not because of what we have done, but because of the increased prices obtained for colonial products. The dollar price of rubber—not the sterling price—has risen by nearly 30 per cent. in the last year. I hope most of us know, by this time, that Malaya last year earned us more American dollars than the total exports of the United Kingdom put together. Let us realise—and we ought to tell our constituents—that, if we lost Malaya, we should have to do without our breakfast in this country. If people realised that, they might give due credit to what has been done by the Colonial Office and the people of the Colonies.
§ Mr. Sorensen
In view of that, wilt the hon. Member agree that the amount of money given under the Colonial Development and Welfare Act is a small price to pay for the great advance we have had?
§ Mr. Gammans
Yes, and I was very glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say he would not hesitate to come and ask for more, and I hope he will get the support of all of us. While there 1427 may be no political bias in this Report, I believe that what it says on page one may have an unfortunate effect. It refers to the Colonial Development Welfare Act and its fund to supplement local resources, and to the Colonial Development Corporation and its authority to borrow from the Treasury for projects, and goes on:It is mainly through these two instruments (that is, the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund and the Colonial Development Corporation) and through continuing guidance in the art of Government and administration, that the Colonial peoples are being helped to achieve self-government by their own efforts.I agree there; but it is unfortunate that there is not the slightest reference there, and hardly any reference elsewhere, to private enterprise. I do not mean private enterprise in what I call the bogey sense in which hon. Gentlemen opposite so often talk about it. I mean in the general sense. After all, we have private enterprise in the Colonies by the Colonial peoples themselves. We hope, too, that the Americans will help us with many more developments. Do not let us be too churlish in admitting the extent to which private enterprise in its best sense has helped with the development of the Colonies in the past and its necessity in the future.
I want to say a word about the Press, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington referred. I ask any hon. Member who may have any doubts on the subject to read the West African Press for about a month. They are not newspapers at all. There is no news in them. It is just scurrilous abuse of the administration, of the Government and of the Colonial Office here. All of us should be reluctant to interfere with the freedom of the Press, but I think something has got to be done about this, and I believe the best way to do it would be to appoint a Royal Commission to go out and have a look. The last Parliament did not hesitate to appoint a Royal Commission to look into the Press here. Let us have a Royal Commission to look into the Press of the Colonies.
I should like to say a word about trade unionism, because I am worried about its development in the Colonies. Nobody can pretend that trade unionism has been a success in the Colonies. Merely because 1428 trade unions in this country have been honestly run, merely because they sprang, in the first instance, from a great sense of idealism, it does not mean that that system can be transplanted to the Colonies without any alteration. There are two dangers to trade unionism which this country has fortunately largely avoided. First, it may become very quickly dominated by the Communists, and that is exactly what happened in Malaya. The second danger is that trade unionism may be run by a bunch of racketeers who start the unions not for the benefit of their members but for the benefit of themselves. That danger has occurred in Nigeria. Where the Government have got over those two difficulties, we find what is happening in Malaya today—namely, that no one joins the trade unions.
The figures the right hon. Gentleman gave the other day were most revealing. In the Federation of Malaya only 5 per cent. of the people eligible to join the trade unions had, in fact, done so. In Singapore it was not very much better. I suggest that the Government should not look at this matter from behind blinkers. Trade unionism is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. There is no magic in a man calling himself a trade unionist. The object of trade unionism is to see that labour is protected from exploitation. If I might remind hon. Members opposite, the worst form of exploitation in the Colonial Empire is from their own people, not from the outside employer. One can generally keep an eye on him. It is exploitation from the local employer of labour which has to be watched. It may be that trade unionism on the British model is not suitable to the Colonies at all. I think this is a particularly appropriate responsibility for a Labour Government. During their term of office, without any prejudices at all, they should carry out an investigation into labour relations throughout the whole of the Colonial Empire.
I want to say a word about constitutional progress and defence. This Report has quite a lot to say about constitutions and also about economics, but I fear that in the dangerous world in which we live today, and in the even more dangerous world to which we are doomed to live for the next two or three years, these 1429 matters, important though they may be, will have very little relevance. It is not much good talking about ballot boxes if a country is going to be over-run by Communism. When the right hon. Gentleman went to Malaya he discovered that for every person who was interested in ballots about a thousand were interested in bullets.
With regard to defence, it is a very sad commentary that today the total Defence Forces of the whole of the Colonial Empire could not between them stop the North Korean army. It is not much good saying that the home country is responsible for defence. It is, but can we fulfil it? Although it is not strictly the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman, except in an oblique sort of way, I feel that he has the responsibility of making the Cabinet realise that the Colonies cannot defend themselves. What a thousand pities it is that we have not built up a great Colonial Army in the last five years.